December 2000 Industry Update

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It seems like it has been forever that I have been saying that DDR products are just around the corner, and I will say it again this month. AMD appears to be trying to ensure that there are very few issues with this platform once it is released, so the rollout has been very slow (as a heads up, expect the same type of treatment with the dual processor Athlon platform). Though it has been a long wait, anticipation of this platform seems to only have grown stronger, judging by the comments from manufacturers.

Though it was hoped that DDR systems and components would be widely available in time for Christmas, it simply has not happened to any degree. While Micron Electronics and NEC (Europe) do have DDR systems for sale, they are the slower and somewhat less desirable PC1600 variety. The problems described in the chipset section with the AMD 760 chipset has prevented faster systems from being introduced.

I have been told by almost every manufacturer that DDR motherboards should be announced in the first week or two of January, with a few claiming they are shooting for the last week of December. Micron apparently is still concerned about compatibility issues, and has not yet ‘opened the gates’ so to speak – therefore DDR modules are very scarce (and expensive). I have been assured by several sources that once DDR chips are being manufactured in volume, the price differential between SDR and DDR SDRAM should be 5% or less. This is expected to occur before the end of Q1.

One interesting item published by Chipworks indicates that Hitachi is paying over 5% royalties on DDR SDRAM to Rambus. This is about double what most have assumed, and could increase the cost of DDR a significant amount if their claims for the technology are validated in court.


The introduction of the P4 processor has given a small boost to DRDRAM sales, however most within the industry seem to consider this insignificant. Based upon the feedback I have heard, this particular memory will mostly occupy a small niche in the PC market, but may have a much greater role in game consoles and communication devices.

Pending litigation against memory and controller manufacturers is causing a great deal of animosity against Rambus, Inc., even from other IP houses. Since Rambus makes virtually no products, it is very difficult for manufacturers to negotiate reasonable license fees, as seems to be indicated by the numbers referenced above for DDR royalties. Of course, Rambus does not seem to care whether anyone likes them or not, as long as the checks come in on time.


SDRAM continues to be the predominant memory technology used on PCs, though this should change very quickly once DDR systems and components become readily available. Due to weak demand for PCs in the past several months, chip prices have dropped to their lowest levels ever. At these prices, it should not take long before some of the smaller manufacturers begin to move to higher margin products, and perhaps some of the larger players that have been operating under a large debt, such as Hyundai. I do not believe that anyone is able to eke out a profit at these levels.

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